• Barbara Fischkin
  • Kindle Tale: How A Landmark Book on Immigration Became New Again - Part Two
Kindle Tale: How A Landmark Book on Immigration Became New Again - Part Two

Just my luck. I was trying to write two simple posts.

One about reviving my out-of-print book MUDDY CUP with an updated second edition, available only as an E-book.

The other about the process of putting it on Kindle.

Then, not long after I posted Part One, the publishing world and Amazon began to fight a match, big time. World Championship boxing and/or wrestling has nothing on this.

In this corner is the reigning champion: Amazon (as in Kindle).

And, in this corner, the-uh, challenger – a major publisher. 


The issues are distribution, pricing and, yet again, the future of books. I am an author who once earned nice but not life-changing advances and has been honored by appreciation, if not great sales: Now color me confused and powerless.  This is not the same as a small independent press or bookstore fighting Amazon. This is a big time battle. If it was an actual sporting event, I could not afford a ticket.

For those of you who have been doing what writers should be doing –writing- and may not be up-to-date on all of this, here is the latest from the New York Times

And here is some advice on where to go for a sane author-centric take on all of this: The Authors Guild. The eligibility requirements are reasonable; even freelancers earning modest yearly sums can join as associates.  We are in the heat of a very prolonged, complicated information revolution with paradigm change that affects all of us.  Organizing, as a labor movement, is more vital now for writers than it has ever been.


And so, with this said, I return to my original topic. Putting my book on Kindle. Why did I choose Kindle? It’s a simple answer. I did not have a lot of time to devote to this publishing process so I went for the most obvious choice: Amazon. There are other e-book publishers and other ways to get books on Kindles and a variety of other devices. The only thing I know for sure on learning the nuances, restrictions, benefits and drawbacks involved: It is easily eight hours worth of online research - with maybe another day to consider options. Only you know if it’s worth it.

For me, at the time, it wasn’t. It still may not be. This is because I set only one major goal for myself: To sell to a specific audience–university, college and high school students. And, for now at least, Amazon is where these students most often look for their e-books,  Muddy Cup, subtitled A Dominican Family Comes of Age in a New America, is narrative nonfiction used throughout the country as a required text.  Lately, though, not enough  hard copy versions are available. And I have been told there is demand for them.

With this in mind, I planned to get it up by this Spring at the latest. I did this so that instructors who want to assign it for the Fall 2014 semester would have enough time to add it to their syllabi, and if needed, get the required permission to do so. This also gave me time to begin an e-mail and social media marketing campaign, directed at higher and secondary educational institutions. I did not expect to see any substantial sales until students actually ordered assigned books. This means September 2014 – and perhaps not even until the Fall of 2015. About this, I have been correct. And so I wait…

With Kindle, I chose the option to permit purchasers to lend the book for fourteen days and receive 70 per cent of royalties on American sales, as opposed to 35 per cent. I thought of college students and their budgets when I did the math. It also seemed that my royalties would work out the same regardless of the choice I made. So why not permit lending? I also priced the book at $9.99, which seemed affordable and considerably cheaper than so many textbooks. I can, if I wish, designate sale periods and sell the book for less. I want to see how sales develop before I do that. I also am considering offering slides and sample tests and/or test questions – an option many professors appreciate.

 Along with adding an updated epilogue by one of the book's subjects, Mauricio Almonte –  his wonderful contribution is described in part one – I also asked around about covers and looked at a few. I reached the conclusion that white backgrounds show up best on e-book covers.

Muddy Cup’s original cover had a  beautiful black background with contrasting graphics. It had looked great in bookstores. But it wouldn’t do for this. So I asked a designer to make it white. I also changed something that had bothered me for years - the beautiful and artful but purposely blurred photographs of far-flung cousins chosen by the publisher. I changed them to clear ones which portray the book’s major characters. And now readers can-for the first time- see images of Elizabeth Almonte, her grandmother Fian, Tía Marta, Javier Almonte  and their siblings.

I hired a few helpers who did not charge anywhere near what they were worth. But on the other hand there are certain things one has to do oneself, and I suspect the pricing is low with this in mind.

 Mauricio was invaluable from the start. He urged me to do this and saw me through the process. He and I agree that the biggest mistake we made was to have the hard copy book typed out, instead of professionally scanned. (It was published in 1997 and the only digital version was on a floppy disc we couldn't open). Today, OCR is the generic term for software that converts image to text; some are better than others.  Mauricio agrees: “We spent way too much time cleaning the manuscript of strange typos.” Mauricio stayed up late many nights to help and  my husband, who has been an editor of some note, returned to the hard basics of copy editing to give it a read.

 There is so much more to tell about this process. If you have questions please note them in comments below.  It would be my pleasure to reply. 

Life, I never forget, is filled with corrections. I still see a few minor ones, now in the Kindle edition. The good news is that with an e-book I can take it down and fix them. The even better news is that I now know how to do that!



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  • Barbara Fischkin


      Thanks so much!!! What is happening between Amazon and Hachette will affect all writers.

  • This is a great post Barbara, I am going to share it everywhere!!